Category Archives: Key West

Key West, From Tranquility to Activism

From Historic Cemeteries to Gay Pride Week, Key West is Full of Surprises

We toured Key West’s historic areas, including the cemetery, the final resting place for a general mixture of everyday folks, from all heritages and socio-economic backgrounds. One section is reserved for victims of the explosion of the U.S.S. Maine (the incident that started the Spanish-American War in 1898). Veterans from other wars are buried here, as well.

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The ornate tombstones sported symbols that signified different things: anchors signify hope, broken columns and tilted crosses are symbols for death, a wreath stands for eternity, clasped hand mean farewell or friendship, a lamb or a cherub signifies the death of a child, a pansy stands for humility, a rose means love, and so on. An open book was a symbol for divine knowledge.

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I’m sure many of you have heard of this tombstone from Key West’s most famous hypochondriac:

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And I loved this one because it reminded me of an old married couple’s bed:

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We arrived during Gay Pride Week, an unusual experience for us! The parade was original, complete with color guard and baton twirlers and drill teams dressed in bright red t-shirts emblazoned with the word “(out)rageous”, camouflage shorts, and Doc Martens. They danced suggestively with rifles to “Dream Girls”.

Gay Pride Week is not really child-friendly, mostly because of some of the street booth wares. I enjoyed the jewelry offerings, though, and bought a bracelet that looks like a rattlesnake skin but is made from a coconut. I’m told carrying a bit of coconut shell with you is good luck for travel.

Later in the day, we drove to Fort Zachary Taylor to watch the sunset. Turned out that the parking lot was also the parade’s staging area. As we drove past to the fort’s entrance, my husband commented on a man in a lime green thong, but I was distracted by a naked tin man, with the funnel on his head and covered in silver paint.

The Fort itself was interesting. Of course, back in the 1850s, supply shortages, storms, wool uniforms and yellow fever made life pretty miserable. The park ranger was a young guy. His father was there, as well, and the four of us talked for over an hour. We discussed everything from the history of the fort to the problem of affordable housing to good places to eat. I’d forgotten my camera, so I didn’t get a picture of the sunset. Or the naked tin man. Some things are just better left undocumented. At sunset, I watched, but saw no green flash, by the sun OR the moon!

The police just leaned back against their cars and watched it all. For some reason, it all works there. Folks CAN mix well. We just have to all agree to do it.

 

 

 

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Key West, A Different World

Welcome to the Unique World Known as the Florida Keys and Discover them all, from Long Key to Key West

The key to the Florida Keys is to embrace diversity and adopt a laid-back, island attitude. The turquoise waters of the Caribbean are always close by and it is easy to find scenic stopping spots along the way, and the strictly enforced speed limits help to encourage a sudden urge to slow down and enjoy the scenery:

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Some Keys had small State Parks, some quite woodsy. I told my husband that I wanted to live on Boca Chica just because the name was so fun. Long Key State Park offers interesting mangrove estuaries, nice beaches, good swimming and fantastic campsites right on the beach.

We did eventually make it to Key West and, of course, the pilgrimage had to start at Sloppy Joes, Hemingway’s fishing guide and favorite bar keep. Restaurants and drinking establishments abound on Duvall and neighboring streets. Just remember that the “Duvall Crawl” may result in the “Hangover Shuffle”.

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We could not overlook the Hemingway House and were glad we took the time to tour the property. The descendants of Hemingway’s Maine Coon cats, unusual for their six-toed paws, were everywhere, very independent and keeping a cool distance unless they changed their minds. The home was elegantly furnished, right down to the Murano glass chandelier:

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I loved the other rooms, as well:

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In the spirit of freedom and independence, chickens and roosters roamed free in the town.

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The homes are incredible and much time was spent exploring and admiring the architecture from grand mansions to funky cottages to a community of houseboats:

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Charter boat trips to out islands are scenic and varied from sailing ships to catamarans to ferry rides. Make sure to book at least one excursion:

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The Island people take their independence very seriously, many still claiming allegiance to the Conch Republic, created in 1982 in protest to police blockades that threatened Civil Rights, along with tourism and trade. For a few hours, Key West did indeed secede from our nation, and their blue flag can be seen everywhere on the island.

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People here are social activists within the community, no matter which side of the coin they’re on:

Key West Trip #1

Key West’s “Official Philosophy” is on a bumper sticker that someone handed to me: “All People Are Created Equal Members Of ONE HUMAN FAMILY”. You can get one, too. Just send a self-addressed, stamped #10 (legal size) envelope to: One Human Family, P.O. Box 972, Key West, FL 33041 USA or go to their website: www.onehumanfamily.info

Key West 2007-Panorama

If planning a Florida vacation to Key West, my best advice is to pack sunscreen along with your clothes and don’t forget a loving heart and an open mind and, no matter what your personal preference, know that there is something for everyone here, from roadside art, all manner of water sports, and an immersion in maritime history, to enhance your island vacation in the Sunshine State!